Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part Three

We need a “quiet revolution.” There is simply too much noise too often everywhere we go. The other day coming back from Eastern Canada to my home out west there was music playing on the plane as we loaded ourselves and our bags into the small space we purchased by obtaining a ticket. When we landed the same music came back on as soon as we came to a stop. Now listen (pun intended), we were not paying any attention to the music. We were busy squeezing ourselves into the small space we rented and then trying to get ourselves and our carry-ons out of the small space and off the plane as quickly as possible. 

My point: there is noise everywhere even when no one is wanting it or it is just adding to the noise and commotion of life in general. We need a quiet revolution.

Recently I read the following in a great book I took time to read as I drank great coffee in the stillness and solitude of my study – in an oversized, comfortable chair that has been my friend for 30 years. (I’ll leave the quotation marks out – anything in brackets I have added)

When we think of famous rebels or revolutionaries or resisters from history, we tend to think about noise and violence, about warfare and a small band of militia fighters trying to take down an empire. (You know, for example, Star Wars!)

Not me. I think about Fred Rogers.

Yes, Mister Rogers.

Of course, there’s the urban legend he was a Navy SEAL and wore those awesome cardigan sweaters to cover up full-length arm sleeve tattoos. But I don’t mean in that regard.

Mister Rogers was a rebel and a revolutionary because of how different he was on television. I remember watching him as a kid and gravitating towards his peace and calm and secure quietness – maybe because I always had such a tough time with those exact things.

Looking back now, it’s astonishing to think about what he did. How he predicated his show on calm, slow, methodical, and pointed talking. Yet silence and slowness are now treated like diseases to be eradicated. Television inherently calls for more noise and stimulation. The cuts and pace and music are intentionally nothing like real life…In fact, especially during Mister Roger’s era, I remember cartoons growing in noise, speed, and stimulation. Today most animated shows are an assault on the senses, causing violence to our more sensitive awareness. Attempting to entertain and stimulate via a metaphorical shock that ends up frying the more fragile parts of us.

Rogers knew that, and he knew it was creating a culture of buzz and anxiety. So he fought for the opposite.

Think of the boardroom fight that must have happened at least once or twice. Fred, you can’t be silent for ten seconds and say or do absolutely nothing on TV. That’s the equivalent of a year in television time! People will immediately turn it off.”

But Rogers knew the difference. The media’s culture of noise is like giving someone meth or cocaine. It overstimulates, lies to your senses, and then something in you weirdly craves it again – even though before you experienced it you never realized you desired it.

The only way to fight something like that is with the anchored, deep, slow presence of silence.

Silence today is rare, so undervalued, that it is an act of resistance.

Rogers would use that silence strategically. “Silence is the greatest gift we have,” he once said. And he fought for that silence everywhere.  

He even had a ritual in which every meeting, spanning across decades, had to start with silence. He’d instruct his staff and team to take one minute at the beginning of the meeting to think of a person who had a positive impact on their life. And he’d watch the time and tell them when the minute was up.

More of this story next time ….   In Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part Four